Mob-Era Tropicana In Las Vegas Closing To Make Room For Oakland A’s

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Mob-Era Tropicana In Las Vegas Closing To Make Room For Oakland A’s
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The Tropicana hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip is set to close permanently on April 2, according to a statement from the resort.

Under current plans, that site will be cleared to make room for a Major League Baseball Stadium to be built as a new home for the Oakland Athletics.

The Tropicana, which first opened in 1957, is one of the last formerly Mob-linked resorts on the Strip with original construction in place.

‘There Will Be Headaches’

The Tropicana’s planned demolition is stirring passions among some who want the landmark preserved. Others are ready for it to be knocked down, saying it has lived past its glamorous “Tiffany of the Strip” years and now is outdated.

On the KTNV-TV Channel 13 Facebook page, readers reflected on the upcoming closure and other changes in the Las Vegas Valley over the years.

One Facebook user identified as Fred Cowles wrote, “Things constantly change in Vegas — part of the attraction. Of course there will be headaches, but it’s part of the process.”

Isabel Kohnhorst noted that the closing marks the end of one era and beginning of another.

“Change!” Kohnhorst wrote. “We just have to go through it. I was deeply saddened when the Riviera was demolished a few years back.”

Others don’t want the Tropicana destroyed for a baseball team that has seen championships in the past but has been mediocre at best lately.

“Vegas doesn't need to lose 70 years of history for a failed team that is the toxic waste of baseball,” wrote Chuck Erwin. “Vegas deserves better.”

A's Seek Temporary Home 

The Oakland Athletics plan to relocate to a stadium at the Tropicana site in time for the 2028 season. Meanwhile, the A’s are looking for places to land temporarily, including a minor league ballpark in Salt Lake City, according to KTNV-TV.

The A’s Triple-A farm team, the Las Vegas Aviators, play in a minor-league park west of downtown Las Vegas near the Red Rock resort, but it is unclear whether that stadium is in contention as a temporary home for the A’s. It is too small for a permanent home.

Tropicana Soaked In Mob Lore

At its opening on April 4, 1957, and for years afterward, the Tropicana was linked to organized crime. It no longer is tied to the Mob but instead is operated by publicly traded Bally’s Corp. of Rhode Island

About a month after it first opened, however, authorities in New York City, investigating a shooting that wounded high-ranking mobster Frank Costello, discovered a note in his pocket regarding how much money the Tropicana had won in its first few weeks. The note read: “Gross casino wins as of 4-26-57: $651,284. Casino wins less markers $434,595.00 Slot wins $62,844.”

Either directly or indirectly, mobsters such as New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello and West Coast gangster Johnny Rosselli also were associated with the Tropicana.

Later, Chicago oddsmaker Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal lived for awhile at the Tropicana, according to Nicholas Pileggi in his book “Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas.” Rosenthal’s future wife, Geri McGee, was a topless dancer at the resort.

During his years in Las Vegas, Frank Rosenthal, a Chicago Outfit associate, operated four casinos for Midwestern Mob families. These casinos were the Stardust, Marina and Hacienda on the Strip and the Fremont in downtown Las Vegas’ Glitter Gulch.

In the 1995 Las Vegas Mob movie “Casino,” co-written by Pileggi and director Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone portray characters based on the Rosenthals. Pileggi used real names in the book, but all names were changed in the movie for legal reasons.

During the 1970s, the Tropicana came under law enforcement scrutiny when authorities discovered that untaxed gaming revenue — the skim — was going from the resort to the Civella crime family in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Mob’s illegal operations during this period were overseen by Joe Agosto, who managed the Folies Bergère stage show at the Tropicana. In the 1980s, the investigation into skimming at the Tropicana led to the imprisonment of several high-ranking Midwestern mobsters.

‘The Godfather’ Creators Lose Money At Trop

The Tropicana also is the site where novelist Mario Puzo and film director Francis Ford Coppola worked on the script for 1972’s "The Godfather,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

During breaks, the author and director ventured onto the casino floor to try their luck at the gaming tables.

"Coppola lost $30,000 the first week playing craps and blackjack," the newspaper reported. "Puzo dropped $10,000 at roulette.”

Coppola said they felt so bad about the losses that they went back up and “worked twice as hard” on the film script.

Most Mob Resorts Imploded Years Ago

Several casinos once linked to the Mob were imploded during a boom in megaresort construction that began in 1989 with casino developer Steve Wynn’s opening of the Mirage on the west side of the Strip.

The Desert Inn, Riviera, Sands, Stardust, Dunes and Hacienda are among others that were demolished. Most were replaced by larger resorts.

When the Tropicana is gone, only a few other properties on the Strip once linked to the Mob will still be standing with original construction intact. These include Circus Circus, Slots-A-Fun and Caesars Palace, none of which are currently Mob-affiliated.

In downtown Las Vegas, some hotel-casinos once run by mobsters, including the El Cortez and Fremont, are still in operation but are no longer under Mob control.

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Larry Henry

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